End of the year is a good time to watch movies in DVD because this is the MMFF week. I am not really a fan of this film lineup happening from Christmas up to New Year. No choice but to stock up on foreign movies that are already available in DVD format. My usual basis for the titles are the top films for the year. And for 2011, these movies are almost always present in the Top 10 of well respected award giving bodies, including National Board of Review (NBR), American Film Institute (AFI), Hollywood Foreign Press Association (which gives us the Golden Globes), National Critics Circle, and other prominent newspapers in the US like NY Times, LA Times, Time.
1. The Help. Story of a returning Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) in Jackson, Mississippi after graduating from Ole Miss. She wants a career in journalism and wants to enter The New York Times. An independent, strong-willed woman breed by proper education, she decided to interview Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), the help of her friend. Aibeleen is black, and during this time, they are considered as the low class. The existing laws then do not give them equal opportunity as the whites. Skeeter initially wants the help of Aibileen for some household tips which she needed for a column on housekeeping in a local newspaper. But eventually, she found out about her own nanny (also a black) and why she was already absent when she return to their house. Skeeter witness unfair treatment, disadvantageous laws, abuse treatment against black helpers in her place. She silently compiled them into a book and send it to New York for publishing, which eventually became the basis for this film. Full of strong, driven acting, The Help has the same tone as The Color Purple, telling us a glimpse in the American history of civil rights.
2. Bridesmaids. This is what for women, as The Hangover was for drunk men. The parallelism is so similar, that Wilson Philips is like Mike Tyson to The Hangover. Hilarious, loud, and satisfying. There were two scenes where I laugh out loud: a) the wedding gown fit in a boutique and all of a sudden everyone experience upset stomachs, b) the speech of two competing best friends prior to the wedding when one friend—after running out of thing to say—went straight to singing.
3. Moneyball. I just finish reading The Art Of Fielding, and this movie reminds me of it. Maybe because it tackles the same sport—baseball. While the book is serious in tone with dark theme, Moneyball is light and breezy. It is the story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), a real life failed baseball player, who is now the general manager of Oakland Athletics, a baseball team in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tired of his team’s reputation as the “organ donor” for wealthier baseball clubs in the US, he invited a young, overweight baseball analyst of the Cleveland Indians to work for him. The young hotshot is Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), an economics graduate from Yale. Now that he works for Billy Beane, he presented an idea that the team may not hire the best players but rather pick the obscure ones but with specific talents for each skills needed in baseball runs. He presented it through statistics, and solid numbers from players previous achievements. When Billy presents this to the core group who manages the team together with him, he was received with scorn and shouts. But he insists on this formula, and it was effective for a time. How so? Well, the team won 20 consecutive plays, an all time record in baseball history. There was a memorable scene when Billy Beane plays the demo record of his daughter singing Lenka’s “The Show” and got him teary-eyed. It was a crossroad for him to choose between a high stake career in baseball management versus spending quality time with his daughter/family. And when you watch the film, you will realize where his priorities belong.